Austrian Islamists were in the process of drawing up plans to set up a caliphate in Austria, a massive raid conducted by over 800 Austrian police officers has revealed.
On Thursday morning around 800 Austrian police officers conducted a series of raids in the capital of Vienna and in Graz which saw 16 separate domestic premises searched, and led to the arrest of fourteen radical Islamists who are thought to be connected to the Islamic State terror group.
Police say that the raid was the result of a two-year long investigation into the radical Salafist network Die Presse reports.
Of the fourteen Islamists arrested, three were women and a handful were Islamic preachers. The authorities said that they also found 140 digital storage items which will be forensically examined by the domestic intelligence service the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
The public prosecutor’s office said that at least eight of those arrested will be charged with membership of a terrorist organization and creation of a criminal organization. Christian Pilnacek, head of the criminal justice department in the Ministry of Justice claimed that the Islamists spoke of creating a “State of God” or an Islamic Caliphate theocracy.
Police also allege that the group had recruited at least 40 people to engage in jihad.
Pilnacek said that the investigation was ramped up to an operational phase in April of last year, though many of the Islamists had been on the radar of authorities since 2015. Sources told Die Presse that there were still ongoing investigations, and that more Islamists were “in the background” and could be subject to arrest at a future date.
According to the authorities, the Salafist group has no relation to 17-year-old Lorenz K. who was arrested over last weekend and was said to be preparing to carry out a bombing attack in Vienna. The 17-year-old was part of a terrorist cell which included a 12-year-old boy who was later arrested in connection with the terror suspect.
Reports from last year indicated that around 270 Islamists were under active observation by the Austrian domestic intelligence services. Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said that 127 of those were under the age of 25. The anti-mass migration Freedom Party (FPÖ) noted at the time that the government had a lacklustre track record when it came to identifying potential Islamists among newly arrived migrants.
The German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) has supported this view in November, when it said that there were likely hundreds of Islamic State fighters in Europe disguised as “refugees.”
Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at email@example.com